By Anna and Fran Simon
We were so grateful that there was room for us in Rabbi Caryn’s Open Tent Be Mitzvah year two class when we needed that support. Specifically, we wanted a Rabbi/organization that would be there for us each step of the way emotionally and with regard to logistics; we appreciated feeling held and guided on multiple levels through this important transition. For our son’s part, he needed discussions of the significance of both the prayers and the bar mitzvah itself because, like many preteens, he questions a belief in God and initially didn’t see why he should say these “meaningless” words. The Be Mitzvah program addressed this. Simply put, we all got what we needed.
During the bi-weekly classes, our son was guided to work on each section of the service, learning about the context and history of the prayers, not just to memorize the Hebrew. Unlike most bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies I have attended, this meant that our son was prepared to say something meaningful about each prayer during the ceremony. He also actively selected the prayers and songs we would use from a wonderful template provided by Judaism Your Way; the siddur and the service were thus uniquely products that he helped create and lead.
A month out, Rabbi Caryn worked with our son individually each week to finish up his “Torah talk”/dvar Torah and his gratitude speech. We were so appreciative of this attention. Just as important, we had more than one meeting as a family with the Rabbi, which addressed not only logistical aspects of the service (and a complete rehearsal), but also the emotional and spiritual aspects. Rabbi Caryn was the first person I had heard acknowledge that this is as much a process of moving through change for the parents as it is for the child. When we struggled with this process or with each other, our Rabbi was there for us.
The ceremony was wonderful, even though COVID-19 meant that many important people could not be there in person, including the Rabbi, who was nonetheless with us every moment via Zoom. When there were sound problems at the venue none of us could do anything about, Rabbi Caryn was a calming and reassuring presence that several of our guests commented on during and afterwards. “I want her to be my Rabbi!” several said, including those joining us from other states. We are so grateful she is here and ours. Thank you, Judaism Your Way!
If you are interested in learning more about our Open Tent Be Mitzvah program or registering for the 2020-2021 program, you can learn more and register here.